Fossil Hunting in Clarkia, ID
(In converting from one ISP to another recently, 2007, I
lost the html file for Clarkia, so I'm recreating it the best I can
here. It was quite a bit better organized, and I just put the images at the end rather than intersperse them with the text as originally displayed.)
I discovered the almost unique fossil beds (I think there's another
like it in China) in Clarkia while reading Stephen J. Gould's Dinosaur
in a Haystack., pp 403-410, in his essay "Magnolias from Moscow
[Idaho]. The fossil bed contains material from an ancient forest that
was almost instantaneously covered with ash millions of years ago from
a nearby volcano. It sealed much of vegetation in rock that became
fossilized. As a result, if one is working on the rock, it is possible
to find the imprint of fossilized leaves, and ... sometimes the actual
leaf! In the the latter case, the leaf begins to deteriorate
quickly from oxygen in our atmosphere. For an instant you see it as it
was, in color, what it looked like millions of years ago. That
It turns out that a good bit of the fossil bed is on private land, and
the owner has a small museum. You can dig in the land for a small fee,
$5 (?), and take out as much material as you wish (within reason, I
suppose). I opened a number of rocks but found no fresh material.
However, I have a block of material in my garage about 1/5th of a cubic
foot waiting for me to probe. They supply hammers, spatulas and such. I
do not presently have their
phone number, but you might call, try Google, to get some details
before you visit
them. The owner has a small area next door that features small gas
powered vehicles to ramble around a track.
When I was in Moscow, Idaho, I believe, I stopped at the University
there, and talked to a palentologist about how to preserve any fresh
specimens if I were fortunate enough to find them. I've forgotten his
advice, but don't recall actually getting the materials to use anyway.
I don't recall either the site or the university having photographs of
specimens of the unblemished material; however, I think the museum
might have had some, or, at least, experienced seeing the fresh
I think the two b/w photos below are from the private museum or
university (more likely the university).
Another dig area, public, some 20
miles from the private dig.
Van is pointing towards the dig area near a creek to the right.
See U.S./State govt. (?) "tourist" maps available in Moscow, ID.
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Changes last made on: August 11, 2002 14:00:00 2002